The Practical and Conceptual Challenges of Public Access in Mid-Century Modernist Residences
Se trata de una tesis de maestría leída en la Universidad de Pensilvania en la que se incluyen dos de las casas que forman parte de este blog: la Casa Farnsworth y la Casa Fisher.
High Modernist residential architecture of the mid-twentieth century embodied an austere beauty of simplicity and purity of form. Applying strict design theory to material and structure, architects connected man, architecture and nature in a way that enabled a surreal experience, pushing a residential structure beyond a dwelling to a spiritual place.
Over time, some of the most famous and iconic pieces of this architecture have shifted ownership and are no longer used as residences. A new demand for public access and visitation has transformed them into museums and public spaces, turning each into a piece of art in its own right. The function has now shifted in part into the public sphere.
As ownership shifts, places originally designed as private retreats for their occupants are now under pressure to open to the public for view and exploration. Highly appreciated as works of art, they draw crowds eager to experience the unique and sensational lifestyle they provided. While this transformation gives a second life to buildings that otherwise might be threatened by destruction or unsympathetic ownership, it also presents problems. Issues of practicality (public access), integrity (durability of physical fabric), and theory (conceptual continuity) raise questions about the most appropriate future for Modernist residential architecture.
This thesis explores the pros and cons of converting a High Modernist house to a public museum, and whether this reuse robs it of significance or integrity. It aims to demonstrate that such an adaptation can have detrimental effects on the building, as well as the surrounding landscape that was so integral to the experience of place. It examines the theoretical foundations of such designs and whether public access to private spaces fundamentally contradicts the architect’s intent, destroying more values than it preserves. By personally experiencing the houses as museums, comprehensive first-hand research provides a thorough and accurate analysis of their successes and failures in terms of practicality. Having identified the problems associated with this particular kind of adaptive reuse, this thesis explores alternative solutions and recommendations.
These questions will be explored through examination of three case studies: Philip Johnson’s Glass House (New Canaan, CT), Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (Plano, IL), and Louis Kahn’s Fisher House (Hatboro, PA). They were chosen not only for their architectural merit, but because all three are or soon will be under the stewarship of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This commonality provides a unique opportunity for comparison, as each has been handled differently by the same organization. Through the analysis of successes and failures at the Glass House and Farnsworth House, which are already open to the public as museums, this thesis then proposes preservation solutions for the upcoming conversion of the Fisher House from private residence by the original owners to the stewardship of the National Trust. The case studies included are all examples of Modernist architecture appreciated and heralded nationwide as masterpieces of residential architecture. These houses are not threatened by indifference, rather by misunderstanding.
The conversion of these three houses proceeds under the context of an upsurge in preservation attention to Modernist works. Many Modernist structures are at risk today, yet these particular cases show a renewed interest and enthusiasm towards the genre. Exploring appropriate use and management through these examples will inform solutions for similar, perhaps less-famous, Modernist houses and landscapes in the future.
This thesis is structured in such a way as to provide an initial contextual history and subsequent specific examples. First will be a framework chronicling the development of Mid-Century Modernism and its role within the preservation community, followed by an explanation of history house museums. After that are the two case studies of the Farnsworth House and the Glass House, which adhere to a similar chapter structure, and finally a speculative case study of the Fisher House. Closing thoughts and analysis are summarized in a concluding chapter.
BEVK, Alexandra. People in Glass Houses: The Practical and Conceptual Challenges of Public Access in Mid-Century Modernist Residences. Thesis in Historic Preservation, Master of Science in Historic Preservation. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, 2008, 129 p.
CONTENIDO DEL LIBRO
iii Table of Contents
1 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1 History of Mid-Century Modernism
12 Preservation of The Modern Movement
16 Literature Review
30 CHAPTER 2: THE HOUSE MUSEUM
30 What is a House Museum?
32 Modernist House Museums: Other Examples
37 National Trust Properties and Acquisitions
40 CHAPTER 3: THE FARNSWORTH HOUSE
40 House History
55 House Management
67 CHAPTER 4: THE GLASS HOUSE
67 House History
77 House Management
87 CHAPTER 5: THE FISHER HOUSE
87 House History
99 Current Discussions
113 CHAPTER 6: FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS